Why Microsoft's digital inking strategy may be a win for the company

Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

Apple's former CEO, the late Steve Jobs, mocked the stylus as an inferior input tool as he touted fingers as the most natural form of UI interaction. There's merit to his statement. Microsoft's all-out commitment to touch throughout its Surface hardware family indicates Redmond gets that.

Touch interaction with our digital devices is so pervasive that my toddler sometimes touches the television screen expecting Netflix to respond. Ironically Apple stubbornly resists bringing touch to the Mac and MacBook having conceded a mere touch strip on the Macbook. Conversely, Apple's iPad Pro and newer iPad, with the Apple pencil is Apple's digital inking strategy within a segment of its ecosystem.

Still, Microsoft's "universal touch strategy" positioned the company to evolve inking, pushing it to the forefront of personal computing throughout Windows and Microsoft's other products. Though touching with our fingers is natural, interacting with surfaces via a crayon, pencil or pen is something we learn even before we learn to read. That skill develops naturally as we mature, thus writing is interwoven throughout our personal and professional lives. Integrating that natural communication and record keeping skill into the digital landscape is Microsoft's goal with Windows Ink.

Microsoft and digital inking

Microsofts has pushed inking throughout many of its products:

Whiteboard is a cloud-based digital canvas that allows users in remote locations to collaborate real-time in a shared digital space. Integrated AI supports mathematic computations and shape drawing. Office products like Word, OneNote and others allows users to write directly into documents as naturally as they would paper. Handwritten content can also be converted into text and pen setups can be saved via the cloud for cross-device use. Microsoft's Edge web browser allow users to annotate directly on a web page, and save and even share what's written.

With the click of a button on the Surface Pen users to launch Sticky Note, Sketchpad or Screensketch where one can begin writing directly on their desktop. Microsoft's Surface Hub and Hub 2 are touch, collaboration and inking focused computers. Microsoft Surface Pro, with its touch screen, Surface Pen, 165 degree kickstand (studio mode) and detachable display makes it ideal for inking and drawing.

The "art" of the matter

I'm no Leonardo da Vinci, but my Surface Pro in studio mode allowed me to draw the above picture of a man using Microsoft's rumored Surface Andromeda digital journal.

Macs have historically been the go to-do devices for artists. Microsoft's touch-centric immersive Surface Studio, other Surface devices, software like Paint 3D and system wide inking have begun swaying artists to Microsoft's hardware.

Microsoft's inking quest is not only focused on inspiring artistic creativity. Inking and collaboration also targets lateral thinkers, or creatives. These are people like teachers, manufacturing managers and mathematicians who don't think in a linear fashion. They process in an analog manner then share their thoughts for others to build on.

Microsoft and others within the industry see this form of thinking as one that inspires creativity within an organization. Thus, Microsoft's pursuit of inking is to provide the tools and platforms that will help facilitate creativity.

Microsoft's rumored "Surface Andromeda" digital journal is expected to bring inking to a very personal, mobile and collaboration-focused form factor. As an always-connected, pocketable Windows Core OS PC with telephony, it may fit alongside Microsoft's other Surface devices.

How Microsoft is prepping the enterprise for digital journals

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!